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Electronic Filing Programs

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Several states have made significant advances in the area of electronic filing of campaign finance reports since Grading State Disclosure 2003.  Currently, over 75 percent of the states have an electronic filing program in place, and in 21 states that program is mandatory for statewide and/or legislative candidates. Thirteen states received grades in the A range for Electronic Filing Program, more than in any other category; however, the 29 states receiving failing grades indicate there is still significant progress to be made. Two states received a B, four states received Cs, and four received Ds. The failing states include those with completely voluntary electronic filing programs, because of the value placed on mandatory electronic filing in the Grading State Disclosure criteria.

  • 38 states have an electronic filing program for candidate campaign finance reports.
  • 21 states have some type of mandatory requirement for electronic filing of campaign finance reports.
  • 15 of these states require electronic filing by candidates for both statewide and legislative office.
  • 6 states require electronic filing for statewide candidates only.
  • 17 states have voluntary electronic filing for candidates for statewide and legislative office.
  • Of the 38 states with an electronic filing program, 30 reported having adequate funds and 8 states reported insufficient funds.
  • 12 states have no electronic filing program.

Significant Changes Since 2003:

  • 2 states that previously had no electronic filing program have added a voluntary program (Tennessee and West Virginia).
  • 1 state converted a completely voluntary electronic filing program to one that is mandatory for all statewide and legislative candidates (Michigan).
  • 2 states that previously required electronic filing for statewide candidates only, now have mandatory electronic filing for legislative candidates as well (Georgia and Rhode Island).
  • 3 states with mandatory electronic filing programs eliminated waivers that had previously allowed candidates to opt-out of mandatory electronic filing (Florida, Oregon and Texas).

States with the strongest electronic filing programs, all receiving an A+ and tied for first place in this category, are:  Arizona, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.

States with no electronic filing (all tied for the last place rank) are:  Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.

The study found that 38 states have programs in place for electronic filing of campaign finance information, which is up from 36 in 2003.  Twenty-one states have mandatory requirements for electronic filing of campaign finance reports.  Of the 21, fifteen states require electronic filing by candidates for both statewide and legislative office, and six require electronic filing for statewide office candidates, but offer voluntary programs for legislative candidates.  The thresholds that trigger mandatory electronic filing vary by state and type of candidate, and range in amount from zero (Arizona) to $250,000 (Connecticut). 

In 2003, Florida, Oregon and Texas provided waivers that allowed candidates to opt-out of mandatory electronic filing by issuing statements that they were either unable to file by this method, or were not using computers to maintain their campaign finance records.  These waivers have been removed, closing a significant loophole in all three states’ electronic filing programs.

In addition to the 21 states that require electronic filing, 17 states offer voluntary electronic filing programs for statewide and legislative candidates. Though these states still received failing grades in this category, their ranks indicate that they are performing substantially better than those states with no electronic filing program.  Tennessee and West Virginia added electronic filing this year; while both programs are voluntary, their creation represents progress in this area and lays the groundwork for what may eventually become mandatory electronic filing programs.      

All of the states with electronic filing programs, with the exception of NewHampshire, offer candidates some form of training and/or technical assistance.  Thirty-four states provide either a free web-based filing system or free filing software, and thirty five states offer a standard filing format for campaign finance reporting.

Adequate funding is a critical component of electronic filing programs; in addition to the resources necessary to develop such a program, disclosure agencies also need funding to provide support, training, and outreach to candidates, and to maintain the programs and keep pace with changing technology.  State legislatures often provide funds to get a program started, but then do not allocate funding for ongoing program maintenance or enhancements.  In this situation, e-filing programs end up competing with the other priorities of the disclosure agency.  Four states reported a decrease in the funding available for their e-filing programs this year, and South Carolina, which passed legislation requiring the establishment of a program, had not yet made funds available for that purpose at the close of the project’s research period.  Six states reported increased levels of funding for electronic filing this year, including three with recently implemented programs or programs slated for implementation in the near future.

Twelve states (Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming) still have no electronic filing programs.

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This page was first published on October 25, 2004
| Last updated on October 25, 2004
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